It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of childhood, it was the age of parenthood, it was the epoch of excitement, it was the epoch of dullness, it was the season of laughter, it was the season of bickering.

It was summer, and it was family vacation time.

It is not often that a 30-12-year-old woman has the opportunity to vacation separately with her family of origin (mom, dad, and 30-10-year-old sister) and her family of record (husband and 7-year-old son)—and certainly not within the course of a week.

There are reasons that these double family vacations haven’t really caught on. Most people have a lot more common sense than I do.

This kind of travel time warp doubleheader is definitely not for the faint of heart, stomach or ear.

Traveling with Zak and Koss (my husband and son, or my “roomies”) is always an adventure into the great unknown. Each new phase of our son’s maturity comes without warning, so we never know how he’s going to behave from vacation to vacation. One summer he was napping through five-hour car trips and the next it was, “Are we there yet?” “I’m hungry,” “Can I get a toy?” and “Are we there yet?” every two seconds.

On the other hand, traveling with my parents and sis (my “homies”) is an adventure into the well-trodden paths of the past. My whole life flashed before me many times during the week, and not just in déjà vu over the ultra-competitive card games and battles over the shower schedule. When my dad is behind the wheel, you take your life into your hands. Other people dream of snakes on a plane, but the only scarier thing I can imagine besides dad driving in the rain, in the dark, on unfamiliar Colorado mountain roads, is his reaction to having my sister and mom point out that he just drove over the median strip and wouldn’t he rather let one of them drive instead?

Unlike the rest of my homies, I have no illusions about my driving skills, although I do often wonder whether to attribute them to nature or nurture. My dad deserves credit for teaching me to use the brakes on an empty freeway, and my mom (otherwise known as “GPS Joannie”) gives my dad at least a 33-mile heads up every time he is within a half an hour of the next required turn. With this gene pool to draw on, it’s hard for me to believe that my husband doesn’t appreciate my navigational skills when we travel down unfamiliar highways.

Should I be insulted that on our recent trip up the coast—take Highway One for a million, zillion, windy, narrow miles, then look for the signs to Monterey—Zak trusted the map to our second grader, rather than rely on the Dinaberg sense of direction? Not only did Koss get us to our hotel without a single wrong turn, he managed to avoid all cries of “Are we there yet?” by plugging himself into DVDs, books (“Snakes in a Car,” anyone?), and inexplicably, the soundtrack from “Rent,” while skillfully shunning exposure to any of that pesky scenery that his dad and I find so appealing.

Despite our differing levels of enthrallment with the Pacific Ocean, for the rest of our trip, my roomies and I were in perfect sync on almost everything. This was the first vacation I can remember where we were able to choose our restaurants without the added consideration of what kind of toy came with the kid’s meal. I could lose sight of my son for more than a second without feeling the symptoms of a heart attack, and wishing I had the nerve to use one of those kid leashes. Sure I was still the parent, but my roomies and I could be buddies too, equally sharing in the coolness of the aquarium’s jellyfish and our amusement at the sea lions that “wrestled” right under our noses at one waterfront restaurant.

Traveling with my homies, on the other hand, brought out my inner teenager. I couldn’t help but bristle a little when, for each and every outing (including going downstairs to the hotel gym) my mom made sure I had a sweater and a room key. And while we didn’t have to sneak the champagne at this particular family wedding, mom did hand me my place card, decide when it was time to leave, and remind me to make sure to go pee and say thanks to my host and hostess.

On the other hand, traveling with my homies allowed me to bask in the magic of uninterrupted sleep in the morning and uninterrupted reading time in the afternoon. I had almost forgotten what a pleasure it was to read a single book in the course of a day, and not be responsible for anyone else’s teeth, clothes or bedtime story. While I spend plenty of time with my homies year round, it was nice to be able to have the luxury of long, adult conversations about art, politics, and family. OK, so it was “People Magazine” versus “Us,” Hilary Clinton’s hair, and how funny it was to see Grandma Evie dancing to “My Hump,” … but nobody interrupted us to ask for dessert or needing help with the TV remote. Except my dad, that is.

It’s funny how going on vacation with your parents can make you feel both old and young at the same time. Come to think of it, so can spending time with your kids.

Is Leslie the only one crazy enough to try a roomie/homie doubleheader? Let her know at Leslie@LeslieDinaberg.com. For more of Leslie’s columns visit www.LeslieDinaberg.com.

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Tags: car, drive, driving, family, travel, trip, vacation

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